Automated Phone System

Last updated 23rd of February 2017

Author Lisa Hartwell

Your Automated Phone System: Are you Making these 10 Mistakes?

In a 2015 Forrester report*, only 51% of consumers were satisfied with their IVR experiences. While this research was done amongst US consumers, it isn’t hard to believe the results would be similar in the UK. Automated phone systems can provide huge benefits to any business when done correctly and yet this is an area where many are reluctant to spend money.  

If you read the Wikipedia entry for IVR or Interactive Voice Response you will see that they make the distinction between IVR and an automated attendant. IVR is designed to receive input and produce a result while AA is about routing calls to a specific destination.

However, nowadays the term IVR or automated phone system is often used to encompass both and, since the mistakes made are usually the same, for the purpose of this article we've grouped them together. Both involve telephone menus and voice prompts and both should be of benefit to your business and callers but, in reality, can be more of a burden.

So, whether you are a large call centre or a small business, ask yourself whether you're making these mistakes with your automated telephone system: 

1. Too many menu options

Clarity is important but adding more and more options to the caller’s journey will create frustration.

2. Overwritten or badly written menu options.

You may feel you need to explain every little thing but the more you say in each option, the longer the journey. Most callers will be familiar enough with using automated systems to know how they work; they don’t need overblown instructions. Keep it simple and clear and avoid waffle and industry jargon.

3. Not maintaining consistency and a professional “brand” sound.

Most businesses start with a shiny new, professionally recorded business telephone system. They choose a voice that represents the business and sometimes commission a company like ours to write or edit the scripts, offer advice and even create a style guide that needs to be maintained.

However, down the road, when new options and information need adding, it’s easy to think that you can slot new prompts in, use an in-office voice and let multiple stakeholders write your voice prompts. Unfortunately, this results in a messy and unprofessional sounding IVR system that has veered off-brand. Style guides are forgotten, professional voicing is ignored, prompts are unclear and over-written (and often badly written) and your beautiful, sleek system becomes clumsy and a hindrance to callers and the business.

4. Not prioritising options

Are you aware how much quicker your caller’s journey would be if you prioritised the options that are chosen most frequently? Instead of making callers listen to 4 or 5 options before the one they want appears, you could save them time and frustration by monitoring the most frequently chosen and making that option number one. If you’re paying for the time your callers are on your phone system then this will save the business money too.

5. Avoiding answering the call.

Automated systems were not created to allow businesses to avoid speaking to their callers (or not in all cases). While automated options for some tasks and services are great, there are times when a caller wants to speak to a real person, not a machine. Instead of sending your callers on an endless loop around your phone system, make sure the option to speak to somebody is made clear when other options are rejected and ensure there is someone there to talk to them.

6. Not offering a call-back service.

Not all businesses need this but if you habitually have callers on hold within your system for five minutes or more then offering them a call-back option will save you money and possibly customers, and your callers will avoid that frustration of being left on-hold.

7. Believing your website holds all the answers

Maybe it does in your eyes but visitors may not have found what they wanted on your website and there are times when people don’t want to or can’t use a website. So, while it’s useful to let callers know the website exists, making it sound like they have no other options or that your website is the Holy Grail of answers is not going to win them over.

8. Not providing the answers the caller needs

IVR systems are rarely so comprehensive that they provide answers to all questions that a caller might have, so don’t assume that they should be happy with what you've provided. And this leads back to number 5 – make sure there is somebody to handle these queries in person, or at least somebody or something to take the details and promise a call-back with an answer.

9. Forcing customers to repeat themselves

If you've sent a caller around a number of options, during which they have selected the purpose of their call (sometimes even inputting account numbers etc.), then don’t provide them with a customer service agent who asks for all that information again. This technology was created as a virtual receptionist, and like the receptionists of old it should hand the caller over to the best person to deal with their enquiry and for that person to have already registered the basic information the caller has given. Nobody likes to repeat themselves and if your phone system isn’t providing that service then there seems little point in having one.

10. Not understanding what is required of your IVR system

This should probably be number one, as in many ways it encompasses all of the above. Until you have a clear understanding of the purpose of your IVR for your business and your callers then it cannot work to your advantage and will only cause confusion and frustration. First determine why the IVR is required, what you want to achieve, how it will improve your business and help your customers, and what the outcome of the journey should be. Then, you will be ready to start the creation process.


If you would like to find out more about how we can help you create a streamlined, on-brand automated phone system then please get in touch or visit our IVR Solutions page.


*Forrester Research, Vendor Landscape: Interactive Voice Response Solutions:


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